What Does Big Data Mean for the Future of Social Media?

In the first part of this post, we examined how the "Quantified Self" and big data trends are affecting social media, and how your data could be a marketable commodity in the future. Next, we’ll examine how these trends affect social media users, marketers, and how they might be used by networks.

What big data means for the future of social media users
The future of social media for users and marketers alike is big data-driven. It will no longer be based on the fact that you like golf or The Beastie Boys. In the era of big data, marketers are already able to track your purchasing and viewing trends to extrapolate data and come to some amazing conclusions. (See how Target figured out a teen was pregnant before her parents knew.)

Social media users are trending towards social aggregators. Remember Trillian, the chat app that combined AOL Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ? It was ingenious – you could organize contact lists across platforms and chat with all your friends through a single platform. Users will be looking for that tool in social media.

Great services like Klout try to unite social streams with the goal of gauging influence, but there is no clear standard that helps users effectively communicate across networks. In a world with such a variety of networks, users will look for a tool that can help make multi-network communication easier.

What big data means for the future of social media marketers
The same is true for marketers as it is for social media users. Social media marketers are looking for the tool that makes cross-platform monitoring, ad placement, and measurement easier. has done a great job of bringing together the likes of Radian6, Buddy Media, and to combine social listening, publishing, and advertising -- but there’s more.

Social media networks already store huge volumes of data on users. Facebook, for example, tracks every computer IP you’ve ever logged in with, and which users logged in from that computer immediately before and after you – up to 800 pages worth of data per user, according to one post. Facebook is required by federal law in certain countries to turn over copies of this data when requested. (There is no such law in the United States or Canada.)

Some networks track other data – GPS coordinates when logged into their mobile apps or pages you were visiting before clicking back to their networks. Others are allowing users to integrate other apps into their platforms, say Nike+’s Facebook integration among thousands of already existing partnerships and integrations. These integrations with other devices, networks and services share thousands of points of data.

It’s probably only a matter of time before these networks begin to offer marketers the ability to market around the data gathered.

Facebook and Twitter both have algorithms built around finding potential marketing targets based on likeness to current customers or target market. How they’re determining this could be based on whether you like golf or the Beastie Boys. But what if you “like” The Beastie Boys page, but checked into Foursquare at a venue during a Taylor Swift concert? What if you “like” golf, but check in to more basketball games than golf courses?

What are the chances that social networks are judging your preferences based on what website you were on immediately before logging into Facebook, or what types of comments you’re posting while logged into a blog via Twitter O-Auth? If it’s not happening already, I wouldn’t expect it to take much longer.

What thoughts do you have about the future of social media? Do you think big data will make marketing hyper-specific?
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